Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ARC Review - Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book through the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for a honest review.

Summary:  The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and complete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eye liner. 

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up? 

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again. 

There has been a lot of comparisons of this book to the TV show Lost. I can't really speak to that since I've never watched that show.  It did remind me vaguely of Survivor and Lord of the Flies - only with with teen age girls and a great deal more humor.

What I liked:   This is a funny, mindless read.  Several times I found myself reading aloud humorous passages to my husband. But of course, being a guy he didn't always get the humor.  It was action packed with perfect pacing.  I also liked that it was a light read. Of course, it has plenty of depth, if you want to get serious and think of it as  a commentary on feminism, commercialism and the shallowness of the cosmetics industry. Buty why spoil the fun?

What I didn't like? Even though I much prefer Bray's  Rebel Angels series, I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book.  It's an all around great summer read.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice-T and Douglas Century

Amazon Product Description: 

My life’s been a great story / In the ultimate war / Should I ill or do right? / Make peace or go raw?—Ice-T, “Exodus”

He’s a hip-hop icon credited with single-handedly creating gangsta rap in the 1980s. Television viewers know him as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the top-rated TV drama Law & Order: SVU. But where the hype and the headlines end, the real story of Ice-T—the one few of his millions of fans have ever heard—truly begins.

Ice is Ice-T in his own words—raw, uncensored, and unafraid to speak his mind. About his orphan upbringing on the gang-infested streets of South Central Los Angeles. About his four-year stint in the U.S. Army’s famed “Tropic Lightning” outfit. About his successful career as a hustler and thief, the car crash that nearly killed him, and the fateful decision to turn away from a life of crime and forge his own path to international entertainment stardom.

Ice by Ice-T is both a tell-it-like-it-is tale of redemption and a star-studded tour of the pop culture firmament. The acclaimed rapper and actor shares never-before-told stories about friends like Tupac, Dick Wolf, Chris Rock, and an antler-clad Flavor Flav, among others. Readers will ride along as Ice-T’s incendiary rock band Body Count narrowly escapes from a riotous mob of angry concertgoers in Milan, and listen in as the music legend battles the self-appointed censors over his controversial “Cop Killer” single.

Most of all, Ice is the place where one of the game’s most opinionated players breaks down his own secret plan for living, offering up candid observations on marriage and monogamy, the current state of hip-hop, and his latest passion: doing one-on-one gang interventions and mentoring at-risk youths around the country.

With insights into the cutthroat world of the street—and the cutthroat world of Hollywood—Ice is the inspirational story of a true American original.
This book was an impulse check out at the library. I was standing in line waiting to checkout and it was on the new non-fiction display. I enjoy watching Ice-T on Law and Order SVU.  I like to read the occasional biography. So I decided to give it a try.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading this biography. I felt as though I was getting an inside glimpse into what makes Ice-T, Ice T.  I realized that Ice-T is a lot different than my perception of Finn on Law & Order SVU.  I found it to be well written and interesting.
However, if you are looking for a biography that will provide a moral lesson for today's youth, this is not it. He does discuss his transition from crime to legitimate work, but he doesn't take a strong stand about the wrongness of his time as a criminal. He's very true to his beliefs, which makes for an honest read.
Also, if you have a problem with foul language, particularly the F-word, then you might want to skip this book.  If you want to learn about the man behind the image, then you should read this book, but if you have an "agenda", if you are looking for a motivational "don't do crime - take the straight and narrow path" story, you might want to search for another book.  
If you are looking for an honest account of this man's life then this is a good read for you. He's very true to himself and he doesn't pull any punches. He doesn't smooth over his mistakes. And while he might not provide a strong warning against a life of crime, I really didn't find that he was glamorizing it.  He does point out that there are risks and the price you pay if you get caught is high.
Overall, it was an impulse check out that turned out to be a rather good read.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bookish Giveaway!

I just ran across a new blog that I'm excited to follow. And not because they are giving away a wonderful prize. I'm really looking forward to reading the reviews. Of course this means my mountain of a TBR list will never shrink. :)

Do you want to win some of these great reads?! I know I do! Head over to Evie Bookish and enter the 500 follower giveaway! There will be 3 winners and it's open internationally and there are TONS of ways to earn extra entries! It ends June 15th!

Check it out for the prize, but I think you'll stay for the reviews.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Splash Into Summer Blog Hop Giveaway

The Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Page Turners. It officially starts at Midnight tonight.

This is open to anywhere Amazon ships as the prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.  You must be a follower and fill out the to enter.  You can get an extra entry by leaving a comment with the title of your favorite summer read.  Winner will be drawn randomly. Winner will be announced on June 1st.  

After entering here hop on over to I Am A Reader Not A Writer to visit other blogs on the hop.

Happy Summer Reading!

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Dertling

Cover from Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7827221-desires-of-the-dead

Violet has a curious gift: the ability to sense the echoes emitted by murder victims.  Only her boyfriend Jay and her closest family know.  But when she locates the body of a missing boy sought by the FBI she puts herself firmly on their radar.

As if dealing with regular calls from the FBI isn't enough, threatening notes are being left on her doorstep, and she feels disturbing echoes around the home of Jay's new best friend.  Violet needs answers fast...

Violet should feel closer to Jay now he's moved from best friend to boyfriend, but she hasn't told him what's worrying her.  She tells herself she's protecting him, but is their fledgling relationship strong enough to cope?

As Violet faces her fears alone she uncovers dark truths that lead her to danger...

Violet has a secret.  The dead call out to her. She can't hear them speak, but she can the imprints of their death and that same imprint is on their killers. Only her family and her boyfriend, Jay, know she has this ability.

She sees and hears the echos of the deadViolet has the ability to detect echos left behind by murder victims, the same echos that are carried around by their killers.  This has always been a closely guarded secret known only by her family and her best friend (and now boyfriend) Jay but it now looks like someone else has found out.  With the FBI constantly asking questions and someone leaving threatening notes for Violet she has a lot on her plate.  But why is she finding it so difficult to turn to Jay for help?

This is the sequel to Dertling's The Body Finder.  And while I liked the first book better, this one was a good solid read.  Rumor has it there will be more books in this series and I'm looking forward to finding out what Violet does with her ability.

What I Liked:  The difference: Paranormal is the buzz word in young adult novels these days. However, much if it is centered around angels, demons, wolves and vampires.  The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead is a refreshing break from the norm.

The pacing:  Even though I was not surprised the events in the book, I felt Dertling did a nice job of creating a suspenseful story. The pacing is just right for building that suspense.  And even though it is a sequel, it would work well as a read alone.  Dertling pretty much ties up all the loose ends in The Body Finder.

What I Don't Like:   Violet's friends. Jay is wonderful, but Chelsea is down right irritating. I suppose she's is to be the stereotypical selfish teenage girl.  She did come across as spoiled, but rather flat. She's incredibly annoying and I'm not sure why Violet puts up with her.

Violet's secretiveness and lack of self preservation: Violet keeps to many secrets to herself. You would have thought she would have learned her lesson from the first book. She keeps putting herself into situations that anyone with a bit of sense would avoid.

Lack of parental involvement:  I also found it disturbing that her parents are not more protective, especially after what happened to her in the first book.

These annoyances aside, it is an overall good read, one that sparks an interest in readers that will keep them coming back to see what happens next.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Cover from Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7285498-angelfire

Product Description

First there are nightmares. 

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.
Then come the memories. 

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

I found this to be a very enjoyable read. Lately, it seems I've been swamped with books, that instead of being enjoyable were just a chore to read.  Angelfire was a nice change of pace.

What I likedThe main characters.  Ellie, though I think she has room to grow, is a very likable character. She came across as rather well grounded, concerned about many typical teen concerns (school, clothes, parties), but not overly spoiled or snotty.  Will is your typical brooding, dark and handsome love interest. 

The bad guys:  No, I'm not on their side, but I thought the Reapers were a nice departure from your usual demons out to destroy the world.

What bothered me: There were two things that I found disturbing.  Ellie's acceptance: When Ellie is "awakened", she seems to accept what is happening rather quickly. I guess that's to be expected when you are forced to fight the Reapers or die.  I just thought she might have questioned her sanity a little more. I think most teens would.

Ellie's father:  This isn't a criticism of the book. I just don't like him. He is certainly up for the bad parent of the year award.  I sometimes wonder if he's been possessed by a Reaper.

Over all this is a great book. If you like good vs. evil with a little bit of romance as well as action, then this is a book that you should read.  It is true that there are a lot of unanswered questions, but I think the author planned it that way on purpose as there are two more books yet to be published.  Angelfire is a new and interesting spin on what seems to be a fast growing popular genre of books about angels.  There is enough action and enough twists and turns (including a surprising revelation about Ellie) to keep readers turning the pages.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ARC Review: Rise of the Wolf: Wereworld Book 1 by Curtis Jobling

Imagine a world ruled by Werelords--men and women who can shift at will into bears, lions, and serpents. When Drew suddenly discovers he's not only a werewolf but the long-lost heir to the murdered Wolf King's throne, he must use his wits and newfound powers to survive in a land suddenly full of enemies. Drew's the only one who can unite the kingdom in a massive uprising against its tyrant ruler, Leopold the Lion. But the king is hot on Drew's tail and won't rest until he's got the rebel Wolf's head.

I received this book from Librarything’s Early Review program. I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I would like it.  Nothing against werewolves, but there are just so many good paranormal stories out there.  In the first chapter or two things seemed to be moving so slowly, I had just about decided this was going to be one of those laborious reads. But, I was wrong. All of a sudden this story really took off and it became a real page turner.

Though the wolf takes the lead in this story, it’s not just about lycanthropy. Therianthropism runs rampant in this story.  The Seven Realms is inhabited by were beasts of all kinds:  wolves, lions, foxes, stags, bears, rats, serpents, boars, and even sharks. I found that this made it more than just your normal run of the mill paranormal fantasy. This story has it all: a little romance, lost children, treachery, a little magic, and a little necromancy and of course, good vs. evil.  Leopold, the Lion Werelord and current ruler of Lyssia, stole the throne from Wergar the Wolf King. Leopold murdered the king and all of his children - or so he thought. 

Our hero, Drew, is the long lost son of the murdered king, hidden away by a loyal servant.   He knows nothing of who or what he is, until one night a monster attacks his family and Drew makes his first shift to the inner wolf.  That night is the first step that will lead Drew to his true history and destiny.

What I liked about this book:  The pacing. Even though it gets off to a slow beginning, once it gets started it really moves along. I was often reluctant to put it down.   Though there is some magic, I like that the story is more about paranormal creatures than it is about magic.  I like the fact that Drew inspires loyalty in those around him, NOT because he the long lost son of the old king, but because of his character.  For a young boy thrown into a fantastical situation, he really is very level headed.  The contrast between his level headed down to earth character and the haughty spoiled nature of Gretchen works well.  Though, Jobling could have worked a little more on the growth of Gretchen’s character.  Gretchen aside (and I think we will see her grow more in future books), the characters seem very well developed. There is nothing flat about this book at all.

The only thing that concerned me just a little is that the back of the ARC states that the intended audience is ages 10 and up.  To me the story seems a little older – perhaps for teens.  It’s a very clean story, perhaps a little scary with some of the creatures.  Somehow it just seems as though the story is for an older audience.

The back of the ARC also includes a quote from The Times (London) – “Superior to Eragon, and pure fun.”  I liked Eragon. But you know? I think I agree with The Times.

This book is scheduled for release in September 2011.  Book two: Rage of Lions is scheduled for release in 2012.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Summary from Good Reads:

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. 

I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. I wanted to stop reading, but I didn't.  I'm not really sure why I kept reading.  Wishful thinking?  This was a hard book for me. The concept was interesting, but somehow it just didn't live up to my expectations.  Though to be honest I'm not really sure what those expectations were.

It's a dystopian young adult novel, which is something I normally enjoy reading.  In the interest of fairness, maybe as a parent, I couldn't get past the disturbing concept of a society that not only encourages teen pregnancy, but pays for it!  That combined with the sad fact that I didn't really care for any of the characters made this a very disappointing read. I found Melody and Harmony to be confusing. I understand that they didn't know each other, but I didn't feel like they really knew themselves.  Sometimes, characters who are searching for self understanding can create a good story, but in this case they just come across as flat and underdeveloped.

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of adults. In a world where everyone turns infertile after the age of 18, I would expect there at least to be some adults who would be extremely protective of children and teens.  I know it's a dystopian teen centered society, but surely there could have been one semi-reasonable adult. Harmony's ability to just leave her ultra religious community didn't ring true as well.

I'll admit that I'm curious to see how the story ends, but I'm not sure I'm curious enough to spend my valuable reading time reading any more books in this series.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett - Repost

Summary: It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren't sparkly, aren't fun, don't involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

The Tiffany Aching series is one of my favorite young adult series. The fourth installment in the series I Shall Wear Midnight is an excellent read. It was like meeting up with a good friend you had not seen in some time. I find it very sad that this is the last in the series. Though Tiffany would be the first to admit that she's not perfect, she comes about as close as you can get. It's hard to believe that she is only 16 years old. She has wisdom beyond her years, which is why I suppose, she is a witch. Tiffany and the Mac Nac Feegles and Granny Weatherax and Nanny Ogg will be greatly missed.

This story is somewhat darker than the other Tiffany books. It explores the worst of human nature. The writing and imagery are very powerful and will have the reader examining their own actions and thoughts.

I highly recommend this and the other Tiffany Aching books (you really should read them in order) for any young adult (or old adult) that enjoys fantasy and books that make them think.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Randam Acts of Kindness - May

Random Acts of Kindness is hosted by Book Soulmates and is a fun way to show other book bloggers you care! Here are the rules:

Sign up each month that you'd like to participate.
• Show off your participation by grabbing our RAK button :)
• Create a wish list (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog etc) and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger for their address.
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K!
Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)

I've signed up for R.A.K. again this month! Last month, I sent out one book. I hope to send out more this month, once I finish paying for the school window my 13 year old hooligan broke. (He knows I love him.)

My wishlist is up on Amazon.com and I am lucky number 71 on the list. I'm looking forward to combing through the sign-up and finding more people to share some book love with.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

ARC: Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy

Cover From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Interrupted-Manor-House-Mystery/dp/0425241904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304438546&sr=1-1  
This is the second book in The Manor House Mystery series. It takes place in a large manor house in Emberstowne, one of those quaint touristy towns. The heroine, Grace Wheaton, is just beginning to find her bearings as the new curator of Marshfield Manor when the arrival of a large group of Civil War re-enactors throws a spanner in the works. The murder of one of their number implicates Grace's love interest Jack, and it's up to Grace (with the help of her annoying, but very competent assistant, Francis) to clear his name.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Grace Under Pressure, I had been eagerly awaiting this second book. I was not disappointed.  Grace Interrupted is every bit as well written and enjoyable as the first book.

I find the characters, especially Grace to be very well developed. (Though, if you want to know about Grace's past, you really should read the first book).  Grace is much like her name - she has a sense of elegance and "grace" that permeates the whole story.  The way she handle's Francis is just amazing. You can feel her frustration, but she tries not to let it show.  I do not like Francis, but she's one of those characters that you "love to hate." And who knows maybe she'll grow on me as the series grows. We don't see as much as some of the other supporting characters (Bennett or Grace's two roommates), but that's OK.  We get to see a positive side of Francis and I'm sure we will learn more about the other characters as the series progresses.

The pace of the story is just perfect for a cozy mystery. Never too slow or too fast. One of the things that I enjoyed about both books is that I feel that I can relax while reading, yet stay engaged. It's very much like visiting with an old friend.

This is certainly one of my top favorite cozy mystery series. If you like cozy mysteries, with just a touch of old manor elegance, I highly recommend you give this one a try.

The Baker Street Letters

The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson

Good Reads Summary:

In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route--and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter, in her desperation, turns to the one person she thinks might help--she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes. 

That letter creates an uproar at 221b Baker Street, which now houses the law offices of attorney and man about town Reggie Heath and his hapless brother, Nigel. Instead of filing the letter like he’s supposed to, Nigel decides to investigate. Soon he’s flying off to Los Angeles, inconsiderately leaving a very dead body on the floor in his office. Big brother Reggie follows Nigel to California, as does Reggie’s sometime lover, Laura---a quick-witted stage actress who’s captured the hearts of both brothers. 

When Nigel is arrested, Reggie must use all his wits to solve a case that Sherlock Holmes would have savored and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will adore.

The premise for this book had such great potential, unfortunately the writing just didn't meet that great potential.  I found the actual story to be very boring. Clues appeared in awkward places.  I'm surprised that I actually finished the book as I found that I not only did not care for the characters or really about the solution to the mystery.  I was very disappointed as I was hoping for a good contemporary mystery with a tie-in to Sherlock Holmes.